MARCO+ lymphatic endothelial cells sequester arthritogenic alphaviruses to limit viremia and viral dissemination

EMBO J. 2021 Nov 15;40(22):e108966. doi: 10.15252/embj.2021108966. Epub 2021 Oct 7.


Viremia in the vertebrate host is a major determinant of arboviral reservoir competency, transmission efficiency, and disease severity. However, immune mechanisms that control arboviral viremia are poorly defined. Here, we identify critical roles for the scavenger receptor MARCO in controlling viremia during arthritogenic alphavirus infections in mice. Following subcutaneous inoculation, arthritogenic alphavirus particles drain via the lymph and are rapidly captured by MARCO+ lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs) in the draining lymph node (dLN), limiting viral spread to the bloodstream. Upon reaching the bloodstream, alphavirus particles are cleared from the circulation by MARCO-expressing Kupffer cells in the liver, limiting viremia and further viral dissemination. MARCO-mediated accumulation of alphavirus particles in the draining lymph node and liver is an important host defense mechanism as viremia and viral tissue burdens are elevated in MARCO-/- mice and disease is more severe. In contrast to prior studies implicating a key role for lymph node macrophages in limiting viral dissemination, these findings exemplify a previously unrecognized arbovirus-scavenging role for lymphatic endothelial cells and improve our mechanistic understanding of viremia control during arthritogenic alphavirus infection.

Keywords: Kupffer cells; MARCO; arbovirus; lymphatic endothelial cells; viremia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alphavirus / pathogenicity
  • Alphavirus Infections / virology*
  • Animals
  • Chikungunya Fever / genetics
  • Chikungunya Fever / virology
  • Endothelial Cells / virology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Kupffer Cells / virology
  • Lymph Nodes / cytology*
  • Lymph Nodes / virology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics
  • Receptors, Immunologic / metabolism*
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Viremia / pathology*
  • Viremia / virology


  • Marco protein, mouse
  • RNA, Viral
  • Receptors, Immunologic

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE174667